ObamaI’ve had a difficult time making both the conservatives who hate him and the liberals who love him understand my position on the election of Barack Obama. I’ve said I think he’s a very intelligent man, that his incredible unflappability, control and calm are among the greatest attributes of any leader and that he is a unifying presence in America and the world which we so badly need. At the same time, as a libertarian I disagree with many of his policies and ideals. He’s convinced that government force can be used for all sorts of good, and I couldn’t dissent more. Yet I don’t feel pessimistic about him as president. I feel that a good man with a steady hand will now be at the tiller, a man who wants the best for everyone and actually has the intelligence to understand the problems he’ll face. (Attesting to these aspects of Obama’s character is this great Newsweek piece, but you’ll need to set aside half a day to read it all.) This historic election gives me hope and cause for cautious optimism.

One of the few pundits I’ve seen say it similarly is Norah Vincent in today’s Los Angeles Times:

Though I am by no means as doctrinaire as I once was about political and social matters, I’m still a libertarian fiscal conservative. In the most concrete terms, this means I don’t believe that penalizing people who make more than $250,000 a year is going to fix the economy.

In fact, I think it may worsen it. The argument goes deeper than that, of course, but no doubt you’ve heard it before, so I’m not going to bore you with it now. Let’s just say that that’s the short version of the reason why I didn’t vote for Barack Obama. […]

But after watching the video of Obama’s acceptance speech (I went to bed early Nov. 4), I have, to my great surprise, found myself moved to tears by the president-elect, by his poise and graciousness, not to mention what seems to be his almost Hegelian historical significance.

This reminds me of the election of Tony Blair as UK Prime Minister in 1997. He was charismatic, intelligent, young, energetic, classy and yet espoused policies I disagreed with fundamentally. But the world didn’t end, and every decision he made was the product of his desire to do the right thing, even when it wasn’t politically wise. Obama likewise, but with even more at stake. As Norah says:

I honestly don’t know how the man gets out of bed in the morning. I mean really, what kind of person goes to work every day thinking, “Yep, just heading off to fix the world.” Either a god or a lunatic, it seems to me. Or, and here is my worst worry, a charlatan of the highest order. Because you have to seriously question whether you can really trust someone, anyone, who can manage to get himself elected in a democracy, and moreover someone who can do it while moving you to tears. That man is either P.T. Barnum or Gandhi.

Or, she says, maybe he’s simply an “…absurdly hopeful person with a lot of energy and belief.” I suspect that’s right.

On a side note, I agree with Norah that what I really like about this result is not that America has gotten more race-conscious, as black leaders like Sharpton and Farracon and Jackson would like it to have become, but that America has gotten post-racial:

You elected him not because of or in spite of his race, but without regard to his race, and whether he lives up to even the 100th part of his promise, the electorate has lived up to its.